Yambo, a sixtyish rare-book dealer who lives in Milan, has suffered a loss of memory-he can remember the plot of every book he has ever read, every line of poetry, but he no longer knows his own name, doesn't recognize his wife or his daughters, and remembers nothing about his parents or his childhood. In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to the family home somewhere in the hills between Milan and Turin. There, in the sprawling attic, he searches through boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums, and adolescent diaries. And so Yambo relives the story of his generation: Mussolini, Catholic education and guilt, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and the life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel. Yambo struggles through the frames to capture one simple, innocent image: that of his first love. A fascinating, abundant novel-wide-ranging, nostalgic, funny, full of heart-from the incomparable Eco.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.19(d)|
About the Author
UMBERTO ECO (1932–2016) was the author of numerous essay collections and seven novels, including The Name of the Rose,The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy’s highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government, and was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
GEOFFREY BROCK is an award-winning American poet and translator. His first book of poems, Weighing Light, received the New Criterion Poetry Prize in 2005. His awards include a Wallace Stegner fellowship from Stanford University, a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a Cullman Center fellowship from the New York Public Library. He is also a leading translator of Italian poetry and prose, having brought into English major works by Cesare Pavese, Umberto Eco, Roberto Calasso, and others.
Date of Birth:January 5, 1932
Date of Death:February 19, 2016
Place of Birth:Alessandria, Italy
Education:Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954
Read an Excerpt
1. The Cruelest Month
"And what's your name?"
"Wait, it's on the tip of my tongue."
That is how it all began.
I felt as if I had awoke from a long sleep, and yet I was still suspended in a milky gray. Or else I was not awake, but dreaming. It was a strange dream, void of images, crowded with sounds. As if I could not see, but could hear voices that were telling me what I should have been seeing. And they were telling me that I could not see anything yet, only a haziness along the canals where the landscape dissolved. Bruges, I said to myself, I was in Bruges. Had I ever been to Bruges the Dead? Where fog hovers between the towers like incense dreaming? A gray city, sad as a tombstone with chrysanthemums, where mist hangs over the façades like tapestries...
My soul was wiping the streetcar windows so it could drown in the moving fog of the headlamps. Fog, my uncontaminated sister...A thick, opaque fog, which enveloped the noises and called up shapeless phantoms...Finally I came to a vast chasm and could see a colossal figure, wrapped in a shroud, its face the immaculate whiteness of snow. My name is Arthur Gordon Pym.
I was chewing fog. Phantoms were passing, brushing me, melting. Distant bulbs glimmered like will-o'-the-wisps in a graveyard...
Someone is walking by my side, noiselessly, as if in bare feet, walking without heels, without shoes, without sandals. A patch of fog grazes my cheek, a band of drunks is shouting down there, down by the ferry. The ferry? It is not me talking, it is the voices.
The fog comes on little cat feet...There was a fog that seemed to have taken the world away.
Yet every so often it was as if I had opened my eyes and were seeing flashes. I could hear voices: "Strictly speaking, Signora, it isn't a coma....No, don't think about flat encephalograms, for heaven's sake....There's reactivity...."
Someone was aiming a light into my eyes, but after the light it was dark again. I could feel the puncture of a needle, somewhere. "You see, there's withdrawal..."
Maigret plunges into a fog so dense that he can't even see where he's stepping....The fog teems with human shapes, swarms with an intense, mysterious life. Maigret? Elementary, my dear Watson, there are ten little Indians, and the hound of the Baskervilles vanishes into the fog.
The gray vapor was gradually losing its grayness of tint, the heat of the water was extreme, and its milky hue was more evident than ever...And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us.
I heard people talking around me, wanted to shout to let them know I was there. There was a continuous drone, as though I were being devoured by celibate machines with whetted teeth. I was in the penal colony. I felt a weight on my head, as if they had slipped the iron mask onto my face. I thought I saw sky blue lights.
"There's asymmetry of the pupillary diameters."
I had fragments of thoughts, clearly I was waking up, but I could not move. If only I could stay awake. Was I sleeping again? Hours, days, centuries?
The fog was back, the voices in the fog, the voices about the fog. Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern! What language is that? I seemed to be swimming in the sea, I felt I was near the beach but was unable to reach it. No one saw me, and the tide was carrying me away again.
Please tell me something, please touch me. I felt a hand on my forehead. Such relief. Another voice: "Signora, there are cases of patients who suddenly wake up and walk away under their own power."
Someone was disturbing me with an intermittent light, with the hum of a tuning fork. It was as if they had put a jar of mustard under my nose, then a clove of garlic. The earth has the odor of mushrooms.
Other voices, but these from within: long laments of the steam engine, priests shapeless in the fog walking single file toward San Michele in Bosco.
The sky is made of ash. Fog up the river, fog down the river, fog biting the hands of the little match girl. Chance people on the bridges to the Isle of Dogs look into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging under the brown fog...I had not thought death had undone so many. The odor of train station and soot.
Another light, softer. I seem to hear, through the fog, the sound of bagpipes starting up again on the heath.
Another long sleep, perhaps. Then a clearing, like being in a glass of water and anisette...
He was right in front of me, though I still saw him as a shadow. My head felt muddled, as if I were waking up after having drunk too much. I think I managed to murmur something weakly, as if I were in that moment beginning to talk for the first time: "Posco reposco flagito-do they take the future infinitive? Cujus regio ejus religio...is that the Peace of Augsburg or the Defenestration of Prague?" And then: "Fog too on the Apennine stretch of the Autosole Highway, between Roncobilaccio and Barberino del Mugello..."
He smiled sympathetically. "But now open your eyes all the way and try to look around. Do you know where we are?" Now I could see him better. He was wearing a white-what is it called?-coat. I looked around and was even able to move my head: the room was sober and clean, a few small pieces of pale metal furniture, and I was in bed, with a tube stuck in my arm. From the window, through the lowered blinds, came a blade of sunlight, spring on all sides shines in the air, and in the fields rejoices. I whispered: "We are...in a hospital and you...you're a doctor. Was I sick?"
"Yes, you were sick. I'll explain later. But you've regained consciousness now. That's good. I'm Dr. Gratarolo. Forgive me if I ask you some questions. How many fingers am I holding up?"
"That's a hand and those are fingers. Four of them. Are there four?"
"That's right. And what's six times six?"
"Thirty-six, of course." Thoughts were rumbling through my head, but they came as if of their own accord. "The sum of the areas of the squares...built on the two legs...is equal to the area of the square built on the hypotenuse."
"Well done. I think that's the Pythagorean theorem, but I got a C in math in high school..."
"Pythagoras of Samos. Euclid's elements. The desperate loneliness of parallel lines that never meet."
"Your memory seems to be in excellent condition. And by the way, what's your name?"
That is where I hesitated. And yet I did have it on the tip of my tongue. After a moment I offered the most obvious reply.
"My name is Arthur Gordon Pym."
"That isn't your name."
Of course, Pym was someone else. He did not come back again. I tried to come to terms with the doctor.
"Your name is not Ishmael. Try harder."
A word. Like running into a wall. Saying Euclid or Ishmael was easy, like saying Jack and Jill went up a hill. Saying who I was, on the other hand, was like turning around and finding that wall. No, not a wall; I tried to explain. "It doesn't feel like something solid, it's like walking through fog."
"What's the fog like?" he asked.
"The fog on the bristling hills climbs drizzling up the sky, and down below the mistral howls and whitens the sea...What's the fog like?"
"You put me at a disadvantage-I'm only a doctor. And besides, this is April, I can't show you any fog. Today's the twenty-fifth of April."
April is the cruelest month."
"I'm not very well read, but I think that's a quotation. You could say that today's the Day of Liberation. Do you know what year this is?"
"It's definitely after the discovery of America..."
"You don't remember a date, any kind of date, before...your reawakening?"
"Any date? Nineteen hundred and forty-five, end of World War Two."
"Not close enough. No, today is the twenty-fifth of April, 1991. You were born, I believe, at the end of 1931, all of which means you're pushing sixty."
"Fifty-nine and a half. Not even."
"Your calculative faculties are in excellent shape. But you have had, how shall I say, an incident. You've come through it alive, and I congratulate you on that. But clearly something is still wrong. A slight case of retrograde amnesia. Not to worry, they sometimes don't last long. But please be so kind as to answer a few more questions. Are you married?"
"You tell me."
"Yes, you're married, to an extremely likable lady named Paola, who has been by your side night and day. Just yesterday evening I insisted she go home, otherwise she would have collapsed. Now that you're awake, I'll call her. But I'll have to prepare her, and before that we need to do a few more tests."
"What if I mistake her for a hat?"
"There was a man who mistook his wife for a hat."
"Oh, the Sacks book. A classic case. I see you're up on your reading. But you don't have his problem, otherwise you'd have already mistaken me for a stove. Don't worry, you may not recognize her, but you won't mistake her for a hat. But back to you. Now then, your name is Giambattista Bodoni. Does that tell you anything?"
Now my memory was soaring like a glider among mountains and valleys, toward a limitless horizon. "Giambattista Bodoni was a famous typographer. But I'm sure that's not me. I could as easily be Napoleon as Bodoni."
"Why did you say Napoleon?"
"Because Bodoni was from the Napoleonic era, more or less. Napoleon Bonaparte, born in Corsica, first consul, marries Josephine, becomes emperor, conquers half of Europe, loses at Waterloo, dies on St. Helena, May 5, 1821, he was as if unmoving."
"I'll have to bring my encyclopedia next time, but from what I remember, your memory is good. Except you don't remember who you are."
"Is that serious?"
"To be honest, it's not so good. But you aren't the first person something like this has happened to, and we'll get through it."
© 2004 RCS Libri S.p.A.
English translation copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Brock
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: THE INCIDENT
1. The Cruelest Month 3
2. The Murmur of Mulberry Leaves 28
3. Someone May Pluck Your Flower 45
4. Alone through City Streets I Go 64
PART TWO: PAPER MEMORY
5. Clarabelle's Treasure 81
6. Il Nuovissimo Melzi 90
7. Eight Days in an Attic 117
8. When the Radio 159
9. But Pippo Doesn't Know 178
10. The Alchemist's Tower 212
11. Up There at Capocabana 227
12. Blue Skies Are on the Way 257
13. The Pallid Little Maiden 272
14. The Hotel of the Three Roses 295
PART THREE: OI NO?TOI
15. You're Back at Last, Friend Mist! 301
16. The Wind Is Whistling 325
17. The Provident Young Man 379
18. Lovely Thou Art as the Sun 406
sources of citations and Illustrations 451
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked this one up with the warning of my friend's experience in mind, that being that he had a difficult time getting past all of Mr. Eco's esoteric references to various pieces of fiction and former pop-culture ephemera. True, those references are there, but what emerges on the surface is a mystery story wherein the detective is also the murder AND the victim. In all, an incredible story, very well put together, though I would contend that it got a bit too preachy toward the end. Those words might have better served in a psychology, or new age text on memory, though again, the illustrations were a joy in themselves, and I enjoy looking back at them even though I have finished the book. I won't argue that it's a classic, nor that if you are a very busy person that it is necessarily worth your time, but you could do worse. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of Mr. Eco's other books, so I am unable to say whether this one holds true to some vein of greatness he might have tapped into, but I'm not turned off on reading his others if that can be construed as any sort of reccomendation.
Eco must have challenged himself to see how many lists he could include in one book and how long he could make that book before the reader gives ups and quits. I didn't give up because I kept hoping there would be some wonderful reason for all the hours spent by the author in writing and by me reading. I admit the author is talented/gifted but still I was disappointed.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is about a man who loses his autobiographical memory, but retains his general knowledge, particularly of literature and popular culture. In an attempt to reconstruct his personality, he visits the attic of his childhood home, going through his old journals, the records he listened to, and especially the books he read during his formative years.This is, above all, a book about the important role of art in shaping personality, but implicitly about how our own personal choices determine the outcome as the protagonist tries to figure out how he went from accepting fascist propaganda growing up in Italy during the second World War to rejecting it. "Gordon was different, he fought for liberty against a despot... And so Flash Gordon must have provided me with my first image of a hero." Unfortunately, Eco is not entirely consistent in his exploration of these themes, and the quasi-apocalyptic ending felt like a cop-out to me. Still, this is definitely worth reading at least once.
It took me a long time to get into this book and I really didn't quite get into it -- although by the end I was following it avidly. It is a bit too much of a "boys" book. Too much longing for a past that wasn't as it might be recollected.
I actually didn't manage to finish this, something of a disappointment with regard to an author of this caliber. But being a book largely about a man going through things in an attic, it has all the suspense and interest of attending a relative's slide show. I think in casting this material in the form of a novel, Eco really missed the boat. What it needs to be is an interactive web site where people can sort through the attic's contents themselves according to their own interests -- viewing pictures, reading stories, and listening to audio clips.
"Memory is a stopgap for humans, for whom time flies and what has passed is past." So says Yambo, an amnesiac who wakes up with no personal memories but with a retention of all the knowledge he has learned out of books. This becomes a hindrance to his very identity, so he delves back into all of the media he has ever encountered to reclaim what once "made" him: academic material, children's books, pulp and comic books, his stamp collections.Yet Yambo must ultimately come to a more holistic self-identity, greater than the sum of its parts. He is an antiquarian who sells rare books, an embodiment of the way we try to grasp and preserve the past as something sacred. And it is, to some extent, but memory and identity are both necessarily dynamic and not tied to media or any other object. That is the "mysterious flame" of the title - as emotions and perceptions shift and grow, which is the "reality," what you experienced first or what you experienced upon reflection?The illustrations were great; it made my reading experience feel more like looking through a scrapbook and added to a sense of memory as a multimedia and complex experience. If other reviewers would like to complain that Yambo's re-discovery of his childhood mementos made for a boring read, perhaps they should reconsider Eco's point of these scenes. Our identity is less tied up in what *happens* to us and more to how we react emotionally and grow during and after the experience. Identity's a funny thing. Yambo's amnesia forces him to, artificially, reconstruct his sense of self - but at the same time, it evokes a mental and emotional growth in him as he works through this process, making himself into something both nostalgic and new.
Sixty-year old rare book dealer Yampo wakes up in a hospital in Milan after a stroke with only one aftereffect¿a complete loss of his personal memory. He can remember every line of every book he ever read, but does not know who he is, who his wife and children are, what he looks like, what he feels like (he has no memory of what his skin feels like)¿in short, his whole personality is gone.What follows is a journey for Yampo into recovering his past. The process of recovering his immediate past¿what his house looks like, where the bathroom is, how to find his way around the neighborhood¿is very evocative, written from a perspective I never have considered personally. How would I go about first of all doing without, then recovering such personal details that I never once think about them or even that they exist? What would my reaction to seeing my face in the mirror for the first time be?Some parts of that immediate recovery are really funny. For example, sex. He asks his wife if they made love, she answers ¿in moderation, mostly out of habit.¿ Later, when he recovers enough strength and they do have sex: ¿After all, it was my first time. It really is as good as they say.¿There follows a short dialogue so delicious that I will not ruin the sheer fun for anyone reading the book for the first time.He discovers that in his studio, he employs a very beautiful young woman, Sibilla, feels attracted to her¿and panics. What if he¿s had an affair with her? How should he act? But then what if he didn¿t? The whole scene is truly hilarious.Finally, impatient with his lack of progress, he follows his wife¿s urging and decides to spend time at his family¿s home outside of Milan. There he spent critical years of his childhood during World War II, when his family evacuated Milan during the bombing. There Yampo hopes to reawaken his memories by going through old diaries, school notebooks, and other memorabilia stored in his ancestral home.The book is subtitled: An Illustrated Novel. There is one drawing, the author¿s right in the beginning, but when Yampo returns to his family home and starts rummaging around, we see photographs of all sorts of things: the cover of a treasured old comic book, of costume designs, of Napoleonic War toy soldiers¿in color and in black-and-white as appropriate. As he delves deeper into his past, there are marvelous photographs of cocoa tins, old cigarette packs, Vogue posters of the late 20s, cartoons, covers of boys¿ books popular in the 30s¿a treasure trove of memorabilia. As Italy entered the war, there are photos of propaganda posters, Fascist Youth boys¿ books¿but record covers and movie posters as well. It¿s eye-opening, as it reveals a childhood most of us never had. It¿s breathtaking in its scope, and a veritable feast for the eyes and the imagination.Yet the images are never there just for themselves but do indeed illuminate the life off the young boy and young teenager who entered the world through these means. Text and images are integrated, each complementing the other.As Yampo progresses ever further into his past, he comes to notebooks and poems that reveal that he had a First Love who was also a Lost Love. This is really interesting, because the first time you run into that them with Eco is in Foucault¿s Pendulum, where it is background material, although important, in one of the major character¿s lives. In this book, it assumes major significance in Yampo¿s life.Also, as we accompany Yampo on his journey, there are words and images that resonate with Yampo, producing a feeling of a mysterious flame within him, a reaction he does not understand.But in the last section of the book, we will understand as does Yampo when the flood gates of memory are opened and a secret he has carried since the war comes rushing to the fore, demonstrating its major influence on Yampo¿s life. This, too, is a theme touched on in Foucault¿s Pendulum and explored very deeply here. It¿s so prominent an
The only section of this book that got me interested in turning the page was a section in which the narrator recounted his experiences as a child during the waning days of World War II. For the rest of it, there is little 'plot' and less as the story enters its last third. By the time we get to the unveiling of 'Queen Loana', you couldn't care less about it, so the abrupt ending is hardly a disappointment - more a release. While the book does enter some interesting sidestreets exploring the ephemera of Italian life in the first half of the 20th Century, as a novel, this is a failure.
An epic journey as we expect from Eco, but this time it's a journey through a man's forgotten memories of childhood, awakened by the power of the printed word.
Disappointing. The concept seemed good -- a man loses his personal memory, has no identity, but can remember every word he's ever read. For about the first third of the book, it's good. Then the protagonist spends the second third of the book doing nothing but reading books and listening to music from his childhood, which is even more boring than it sounds. It starts to pick up in the last third, as his memories begin to return and he relives them. But then the ending is a dream sequence, which is just horribly anti-climactic. It's a lot like an old surrealist art-house film.
It was okay. I'm not sure why I didn't love it. I liked the illustrations, the story was well told. Eco was certainly throwing around names and characters I was not familiar with, so the many illustrations were a welcome addition. They also made me feel like I was looking over the shoulder of the main character. I certainly would have enjoyed a little more biblio- in this alleged biblionovel. I guess I went in with expectations, and they were not met.
This book's premise was fascinating, but it's just too long. Eco spends so much time focusing on detail after detail about Italian popular literature and records from ages past that it leaves a 20-something American like me feeling like I'm stuck in a room with a senile grandfather who can't let the past go. It's alienating, like this is something I could never understand.The book comes together well and it's definitely a solid, intelligent story with a lot of beautiful moments, but getting to the end felt like something of a chore.
I listened to it, and read it at the same time as it has many illustrations, and one would miss a lot by only listening to it. Actually, I¿m wondering why my library decided to buy this particular book in its audio version, as it¿s the most inappropriate of Eco¿s works to have in this form. They don¿t have any others. Oh, well. I shouldn¿t complain because I probably wouldn¿t have finished it if it wasn¿t in the audio form. It just gets boring in the middle. The plot is rather simple. A man wakes up from a coma and finds out that even though he remembers thousands of books in detail, he is a complete amnesiac in his private life. He goes on a quest for his identity to his childhood home, and there re-lives his early life.It was delightful at the beginning because of the numerous references to English literature, but as it went further, it became more and more bogged down with details I had no reference to that went back to Italy in the 30s and 40s of the twentieth century, to comic books, in which I am not really interested in, and people I have never heard of.
Interesting but not very exciting. Not much of a plot but cool ending.
I lucked onto this in the unsightly bookcase in the bungalow resort where I stayed on Koh Lipe (in the Tarutao islands, very far south of Thailand) over New Year's. Especially lucky considering that the second-hand book stalls were packed only with John Grisham and The Devil Wears Prada in six languages. I traded Jonathan Lethem for it.So it was a great holiday read, though it isn't particularly intellectually, philosophically stimulating in the way you might expect an Eco to be. So the narrator character, a man probably about Eco's age, has a stroke and loses his memory. How to recover it? He goes back to the ancestral farmhouse and discovers the comic books, comics pages, music records, news magazines and other detritus of his youth. Which stimulate memories.Since the character, Yambo, was a boy during World War II, the general terrain we're covering is awfully familiar. The great part is that there are actual pix of this stuff, translated lyrics of songs and so on. What happens to the American comics when the US becomes the enemy? (Who knew how Terry and the Pirates started out?) How was Mussolini depicted?How I wish there was a novel, memoir--anything remotely like this--set in Malaysia, China, Burma, etc., during World War II and in a bordering era. That is, an absorbing, easy read. Well, there are a few Japanese novels, I guess ...but there are just so many European ones on the era. I can well imagine many a potential reader glancing at this book and thinking: "Enough already. I've read that."
As I made my way through this book, I kept thinking to myself "This is Umberto Eco's best book yet!" Then I'd get bogged down in a bit of poetry or a narrative about Flash Gordon and I'd think "Perhaps it's not quite as good as Foucault's Pendulum." In the end I found it impossible to decide which was better (and perhaps it's irrelevant anyway).The narrative about a sixty year old Italian man who loses all personal memories as the result of a stroke seems touchingly personal. The narrator spends the first part of the book trying to comprehend what has happened to him. In the second part, he returns to his childhood home to rummage through the attic and rediscover his past through paper. In a heart-rending tradeoff, he is finally able to relive his memories but nothing else.In a way, Eco is giving us three books in one: First, the intriguing novella about losing personal memories; Second, a rather eclectic review of literature and pop culture in 1940s Italy; Third, a gripping account of some of the most significant events in a young boy's life. By turns humorous and poignant, this wonderfully-illustrated book is definitely worth reading.
Initially I liked this book a lot. It grabbed me quickly. But after 160 pages (about 80 of them I skimmed through) I decided to quit the book. A good story put to waste as the only reader to find this interesting would be a 60 year old literary Italian.
Interesting that this book has already got several reviews. I love the format with all the photos and montages and memorabilia--the graphic art of Yambo the amnesiac bookseller trying to reconstruct his life beginning with his youth growing up in Mussolini's fascist Italy. Very nice story--a kind of non-violent detective story and the books format is excellent and it's worthwhile just scanning all the pictures even if you don't read it..
[close] I expected a lot from this book when I bought it, and I have to say that I was quite dissappointed. I liked the lead character a lot, and the offset for the plot was excellent, but it seemed to me that he (Eco)didn't play around enough with all the possibilities which his character's situation allowed. At Solara, the idea of trying to recover his history by surrounding himself with his childhood things was very appealing to me, but at some point I got sick of rummaging through old vinyl discs and stamp collections with him. I enjoyed the stories about the books, but these too grew old after a while. Though it was interesting to learn about Facist Italy from the perspective of a boy. *spoiler* I liked the "twist" (since it's not really a twist), when he found the old book, had a stroke and started floating amongst his memories again. It was very satisfying to finally understand who he is, and where he comes from. But what wasn't satisfying was the ending. The idea of all the characters from the comics and books which inhabited his life to come to him in his final moments is charming, but it also left me with a sour taste in my mouth, since the author left all the ends rather loose. I still would like to know what happened with the book he found. Highlights - Gragnola (I think that was his name) and his long speech about why god is a facist sent me hollering. Also, Yambo's musing about whether he's dreaming, or dreaming of dreaming, or perhaps just existing in a sort of suspended state, as just a brain floating in fluid into whom someone sends images as he wishes. Reminded me of the 'Matrix'. So to sum it up - I wasn't too thrilled by this book, though it had its' moments. Quote: "By war's end I had learned a great deal, not only how babies are born, but also how jews die". 7.5.07
Umberto Ecco is one of my favourite authors and this book follows the others I've read by being brilliant, thoughtful, intricate and beautiful. The book is a testament to the fascist era of Italian history, but more than that an absolutely fascinating account of how ones own life might look when you yourself become a third party observer of it. As always, Ecco manages to create a wonderful mix of science, philosophy, psychology and history in an insightful and engaging story.
A bookseller in his 60s wakes up after an accident to find that his memories are gone. At least, the memories of his own life are gone -- quotes and ideas from the many books he's read are still intact. He goes on a journey through popular culture of his childhood to try to figure out who he is. Then, there is a reversal -- suddenly he's left with nothing *but* his memories. I found the end unsatisfying and the book overall sometimes difficult to get through.
Would have been 5 stars, but the last couple pages ruined it for me.
Imagine waking up and not remembering your life. Admittedly, this is something that I worry about all the time so I was intrigued when I read the back cover of The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and found it to be the premise of the novel. The main character, Yambo, finds himself unable to remember anything about his life and attempts to piece together his past - a mystery of sorts. Throughout the novel, the reader is treated to an endless barrage of list upon list of songs, cartoon characters, magazines, books, works of art, etc.. I found this to be quite exasperating; however, I did finish the book. Why? I was hoping the book would become more interesting and I wanted to know what happened to Yambo. Mr. Eco was able to create a likable character floundering in a sea of minutiae. Sadly, this book was not for me; however, I will give Mr. Eco another read. I recommend his book for those that are nostalgic about Italian culture during World War II, the influence of propaganda, and interested in psychology.